Working for the weekend


Monday is Labor Day. It officially marks the end of cookout season, although I have a number of friends who grill until the first blizzard arrives.

Although local corn and tomatoes are still in markets, you also will find the debut of local red bell peppers and small Italian prune plums.

When a recipe calls for roasted peppers, I often use the jarred variety. Trader Joe’s are imported from Spain and they are plump and juicy. Still, it is easy to roast peppers in the oven or grill them outdoors.

To oven roast, cut each pepper in half. Remove the seeds, slick them with olive oil and roast in a 500-degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until the skins soften and turn black. Remove the peppers and place them in a brown paper bag. After cooling down, run them under cold water and remove the skins. They should slip off easily.

Here are recipes for a Labor Day barbecue from Judith Huxley’s "Table for eight: Recipes and menus for entertaining with the seasons." All recipes serve eight unless otherwise noted.

Roasted Red Pepper and Watercress Salad


4 large red bell peppers, roasted and cut into strips
6 tablespoons of olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon of minced shallot
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 bunch of fresh watercress


Place the peppers in a serving bowl.

Mix the oil and lemon juice in a small bowl. Pour over the peppers. Add the shallot, salt and pepper. Toss well.

Just before serving, add the watercress and toss again.

Note from Phyllis: You can substitute two 15-ounce jars of roasted red peppers in this recipe.

Iced Red Bell Pepper Soup


3 large roasted red bell peppers plus a half
8 cups of tomato juice
Pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil, thyme, oregano or parsley, alone or in any combination
Salt and pepper, to taste


Cut the three roasted peppers into chunks. Place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until pureed.

Pour the puree into a saucepan. Add the tomato juice and sugar and simmer for five minutes. Cool, then refrigerate.

Just before serving, slice the remaining red pepper into thin strips. Garnish the soup with the strips and herbs. Add the salt and pepper.

Note from Phyllis: You also can serve this soup hot.

Italian Prune Plum Tart


3/4 of a cup of blanched almonds
1/3 cup of sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons of butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon of almond extract
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest
1 10-inch unbaked pie shell
24 Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered
1 cup of red currant jelly
2 tablespoons of port or medium-sweet Madeira


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the almonds and sugar in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and process for 30 seconds, or until smooth. Do not grind into a paste. Add the egg, butter, extracts and zest and blend for 20 seconds.

Evenly spread the mixture over the pie shell. Top with the prune plums, arranging in a decorative pattern. Place the tart on a baking sheet in the center of the oven for one hour.

Remove and cool.

Heat the jelly with the port or Madeira until melted. Spoon over the entire tart and cool to room temperature. Serve with Mock Creme Fraiche (recipe below).

Mock Creme Fraiche


2 cups of heavy cream, preferably not ultrapasteurized
4 tablespoons of sour cream


Place the heavy cream in a bowl and whisk in the sour cream. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours, or until thickened.

Creme fraiche can be stored in the refrigerator for one week.

Makes 2 cups.